Samson was a very gnarly character in the Bible. Very rough-around-the-edges. Usually, talks about Samson are about his feats of great strength and how he was brought down by a woman, Delilah, because he told her his weakness. But today we’re actually going to look at Samson’s parents.
In this reading, an angel of the Lord appears to Manoah and his barren wife and tells them that they’re going to have a baby boy. He tells the wife to be careful what she eats and drinks while she’s pregnant. The wife was also told that their son would be a Nazirite to God (being separated to God and avoiding certain things, usually for a set time) from the start and would begin to save Israel from their oppressors, the Philistines.
In Judges 13:8, “Then Manoah prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, please let the man of God to whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born.”
God listened and the angel of God came back.
In Judges 13:12, Manoah asks the angel of the Lord, “what is to be the child’s manner of life, and what is his mission?” He wants to know exactly what’s going to happen to his child and what he should do.
In verse 13, the angel of the Lord simply repeats the same thing he told the wife the first time, to be careful what she eats and drinks while she’s pregnant. Ok…… You can imagine what word might be on the tip of Manoah’s tongue, “But…”
Have you ever been in a situation in which you wanted to know exactly what was going to happen and asked God what was going to happen or what you were supposed to do? I sure have. When God tells us that he wants to do something with us, tells us a smidge of a plan that he has for us or drops an opportunity into our laps, it’s in our nature to want to know all the details. Like, now. We want to know what’s going to happen and what we need to do. A step-by-step procedure would be good, preferably in the form of a spreadsheet.
We like to think that the reason we want to know God’s detailed plan is so that we will know what to do. That’s how it starts out. But if God gave us his spreadsheet, what would we do with it? We would read over it, start changing a few little things that we didn’t agree with, take out a step here and switch those two around, bring in a colourful box of something else on the side and fiddle with the formulas. By the time we finished ‘adjusting’ it, it wouldn’t be God’s plan anymore, it would be our plan. It’s in our sinful nature to want to have control, and that’s what would happen if God told us all the details at the start. We don’t get to know the whole plan because it’s not our plan. God is God. He is in control. It’s his spreadsheet.
I love spreadsheets. I have spreadsheets for so many things: the construction of my Veggie Garden, crop planting plans, chicken health records, flock and breeding databases, egg production, a fruit tree harvest graph, price lists, plant lists, building project diagrams and calculations, a garden database of ALL the plants in my garden and their characteristics and requirements and where they came from… You get the picture.
What would happen if I gave my crop planning spreadsheet to my 4-year-old son and said he could do what he liked with it for this year’s vegetable planting? First, he would draw on it, probably with a thick, black permanent marker. He might start out drawing different vegetable crops, then it would get more and more messy until it looked like something the cat spewed up. Then the work machines would move in and start ripping up bits of paper until it was no longer a distinctive piece of paper. Then it would be discarded, forgotten about, and would end up in the recycling bin. And if I set him free in the garden to plant and sow whatever he wanted, well, that would be downright disastrous in terms of being able to feed our family.
Imagine if The Lord’s Prayer started like this: “Our Father which art in heaven, give us thy spreadsheet immediately!” That sounds absurd, but if we look into our hearts, that’s what we expect sometimes.
But how do I know what God wants me to do with his plan for me? You take it day by day. You ask him, every day, God, what do you want me to do today? He’s probably not going to give you a spreadsheet plan for the day, but as you give each day over to him, you are putting him in control and asking him to reveal what he needs to during the day. Big plans are accomplished by small steps.
Working with God’s plan requires a few things: surrender, seeking, doing and patience.
To our minds, surrender can have negative connotations. It sounds like giving up, like failure. But surrender to God is different than surrender to man or to circumstance, because we are surrendering to something, someone, who is perfect, who has no sin or corruption in him. Perfectly loving, perfectly just and perfectly capable of doing anything. To surrender to God means to acknowledge that he is in control and to give him praise and thanks. It sounds like this:
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. – 1 Chronicles 29:11
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. – Proverbs 19:21
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. – Luke 9:23
Then, we seek God. It is perfectly acceptable and, quite frankly, essential, to ask God, “What do you want me to do today?” Or “What do you want me to do in this situation?” There’s a difference between seeking what God wants you to do on a daily basis and demanding to know all the answers. He really wants us to seek him, but it’s totally up to him to reveal what he wants to and in the way that he wants to. Here’s what seeking God looks like:
But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. – Deuteronomy 4:29
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. – 1 John 5:14
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. – Ephesians 5:15-17
The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand. – Psalms 37:23-24
God really likes to do stuff with us. Although it’s not our place to be in control of his plans, he loves to use us to carry them out, because we are his children. I would not leave my crop plan in the hands of my son, but I love it when he helps me, under my guidance, to sow seeds or plant things in the veggie garden, to pull out weeds, water plants and pull or dig out crops that are ready to harvest. How does he know what to do? He asks me and then he does it. Sometimes he doesn’t do things quite right, but as long as I’m there with him, I can teach him along the way, praising him for a job well done and patiently (ahem, Lord, help me) correcting him when he goes a bit off track.
We can’t sit around all day waiting for God to show us his plan, we just have to start doing our daily things after spending time with him and he will guide us as to what to do and how to do it. He knows we have work to do, whether it be a job, school or studies, raising kids, ministry, community involvement, homestead chores, raising animals or producing plants. He gave us those things and if we seek him first, he will help us to steward them wisely.
What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. – Ecclesiastes 3:9-11
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men – Colossians 3:23
You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. – Deuteronomy 5:32
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. – Psalms 127:1-2
Sometimes when we want to know what’s on God’s spreadsheet, it’s just because we want to know, like a child constantly asking what the surprise we have in store for them is. Sometimes it’s because we’re in a hard place, a time of suffering, and we want to know what God could possibly be doing that’s good in this situation or when he’s going to get us out of it, like a child yelling or crying, “It’s not fair!” Whatever the case, God wants us to be patient. He’s up to something. He’s always up to something. His spreadsheets are the best, even when we can’t see what’s on them. Just because we can’t see what’s on the spreadsheet, doesn’t mean the spreadsheet doesn’t exist. Patience comes hand-in-hand with trust. God will share some of the spreadsheet with us when he’s ready.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-5
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23
… Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. – Romans 8:24-25
Now, God didn’t tell Samson’s parents exactly what he wanted them to do all in one go. But this is what happened:
And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir in him in Mahaneh-dan between Zorah and Eshtaol. – Judges 13:24-25
Samson’s parents obviously looked after him, because he grew. And the Lord blessed him. God did what he had planned to do. Then the Holy Spirit began to stir Samson, began to tell him things that were on God’s spreadsheet for him. God just kept quietly working out his plan, without Manoah and his wife needing to see the spreadsheet at the beginning. Unfortunately, Samson chose not to surrender to God or seek him a lot of the time, instead relying on his own decision-making, so a chunk of God’s plan for him didn’t get to happen. We always have the freedom to choose what we do and with that freedom comes responsibility.
Here are some questions to ponder for today:
- Where do I tend to land on the scale between demanding and surrendering; between demanding to know what’s going to happen and what I should do and surrendering to God to do whatever he wants me to do and trusting in his control and timing?
Demanding ——————— Surrendering
- Which of the four steps, Surrender, Seeking, Doing and Patience, do I most need to make some improvement on? And how can I improve in that area?
- Have a chat to God about your thoughts.
All Bible verses are from the ESV (English Standard Version), 2016.